WHAT AFFECTS SKIN HEALTH?
In the search for more beautiful skin, the two most common concerns are acne and wrinkles. Acne happens when hair follicles (sometimes called pores) become blocked with natural oils. If the pore is open to the air, the clog will appear as a blackhead. But if oil is trapped below the surface of the skin, it provides a nice little breeding ground for bacteria, leading to pimples — skin eruptions that can look red and inflamed. Because hormones affect how much oil your skin produces, acne is more likely to flare up during times of hormonal upheaval, including adolescence, pregnancy, and premenstrual weeks, as well as times of stress.
Wrinkles are a fact of life. As we age, collagen and elastin, the substances that keep skin firm and elastic, gradually decrease. Fat pads in the face also thin out. Without this underlying structure, skin sags, creases form, and — ugh! — we have wrinkles.
How quickly your skin shows signs of aging is largely determined by genetics, but the process accelerates if your skin is somehow damaged. Skin damage occurs as a result of oxidation, a chemical process during which unstable molecules called free radicals steal electrons from healthy cells. On the skin, oxidative stress can appear as wrinkling, thickening, discoloration, and decreased elasticity. The most damaging oxidative factors are smoking and sun exposure, and the extent of the damage depends on how long and how much you smoke, how much time you spend in the sun, and how many severe sunburns you’ve had.
Cigarette smoke fills your body with free radicals. Every lungful sends free radicals coursing through your blood stream, where they can damage every organ in your body, including your skin. Smoking also impairs blood flow to your skin, starving the cells of nutrition and oxygen. It also damages underlying collagen and elastin and keeps your skin from its natural renewal process. These problems evolve slowly, so the damage to your skin can take up to ten years to appear. Unfortunately, those effects are irreversible. To prevent skin damage from cigarette smoke, including wrinkles, don’t smoke and don’t spend extensive amounts of time in smoky rooms.
Sunlight, as pleasant as it is, is a form of radiation. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, to be more specific. UV radiation not only causes free radical damage, it can also cause cells to mutate and potentially turn cancerous. So excess sun exposure is a triple threat: sunburn in the short run, wrinkles in the long run, and the possibility of skin cancer to boot.
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